Former US defense secretary speaks at dedication ceremony for new Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park

Former Defense Secretary James Mattis was in town today for the dedication ceremony of the new Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park at the Museum of Flight in Tukwila.

Mattis, a retired Marine general, is from Richland Washington. He spoke to a huge crowd at this ceremony in Tukwila, most of them veterans and their families.

“Today we are proud to pay respect and reminded that the freedom we often take for granted was never free,” said Mattis.

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The centerpiece of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park is the iconic B-52 bomber, recently restored after sitting for decades at Paine Field in Everett.

The 200,000-pound aircraft was transported to Tukwila piece by piece last summer to be part of this permanent exhibit.

“It’s very emotional and very rewarding to see the B-52 recognized," said 70-year-old Randy Wimmer who served as a navigator during the Vietnam War.

He and his wife traveled from their home in North Dakota to be at this ceremony this Memorial Day weekend.

“It’s well worth it. We are humbled by their experience,” said Wimmer.

A bronze statue of an airman was also unveiled  today at the park, representing all those who returned from combat.

The American flag folded under his arm stood for those who did not.

There is also a tribute wall honoring those who served.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park is free of charge to the public.

Also, the Museum of Flight will be free this Memorial Day weekend for veterans and active military members.